Although many people believe that eczema and dermatitis are separate conditions, they are actually one and the same. The most common form of this skin condition is atopic eczema. Depending on what study you read, there are between 18 and 34 million people that exhibit symptoms of eczema. Atopic eczema is often genetic and can be associated with a family history of environmental sensitivities and allergic conditions like asthma or hay fever.
What are the symptoms?
One of the most common symptoms associated with eczema is extreme itchiness. Speaking from experience, once you start scratching it is hard to stop. You can rub your skin raw trying to get rid of the unbearable itch. Other common symptoms include:
Rash on the legs, arms, hands and neck (most common but other areas can be involved)
General dry skin even when eczema is not active
Blisters with oozing and scabbing
Redness and inflammation around the blisters
What causes eczema?
There tends to be a general consensus that eczema is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. If a person has atopic eczema there will usually be another family member with an atopic condition, such as eczema, asthma or hay fever. Many environmental factors are associated with a flare-up and may include the following:
? Wool clothing that scratches and rubs against the skin
? Taking long hot showers or frequent baths
? Activities that involve dust and soil contact
? Extremes in temperature (both hot and cold)
? Contact with chemicals such as bug spray, paint thinner, air fresheners and even certain scented toilet paper
? Scented soaps, detergents and perfume
In addition to the above-mentioned factors, stress and diet can play a role in activating an eczema flare up.
Staying calm and keeping a positive mental attitude can be an excellent way to keep eczema flare-ups to a minimum. Personal and work related stresses are potent triggers for eczema. Feelings of anger and frustration can also increase the chances of a flare-up. My personal battles with eczema have been at there worst during periods of increased stress at work.
Certain foods have been known to provoke the onset of eczema. Foods on this list include peanuts, milk and milk products, soy, fish, eggs and wheat. Its not a bad idea to keep a journal of what you eat and write down the effects it has on your body. The journal will help you identify and avoid foods that provoke an eczema attack.
Is there a cure for Eczema?
There is no complete cure for eczema. However, there are a variety of natural treatments and routines that can be followed to help reduce eczema flare-ups. Treatments are very individual and work better on some people than others. If these tips dont offer some relief then it is best to consult your healthcare professional. Various natural healing experts recommend the following for controlling eczema:
GLA – Evening primrose oil is a great source of the essential fatty acid known as GLA (gamma-linolenic acid). GLA is hard to come by in the diet so it is best to get thru supplementation. Typical dosage is between 3 and 6 grams daily, taken with food. Studies for Primrose oil have been mixed but some patients do claim that the oil has helped to reduce symptoms of eczema.
Herbs There are a variety of herbs that have had some success in treating eczema. These include burdock root, red clover, goldenrod, roman chamomile, German chamomile and yarrow. A great recipe that can be applied to the affected area (2x a day) is the following:
German chamomile 12 drops
Goldenrod 6 drops
Tagetes 6 drops
Dilute this solution in the following:
Almond oil 2 tablespoons
Jojoba oil 25 drops
Evening primrose oil 10 drops
This natural remedy has offered excellent results for numerous people with eczema. For your first application, treat a small area to insure that your skin is not overly sensitive to the oils.
Ice- placing an ice pack on the aggravated areas can offer a natural way to relieve itching. A good ice pack can be made from a solution of 50% water and 50% rubbing alcohol. The alcohol will prevent the solution from hardening and allows you to mold the pack to the contours of your body.
Moisturize It is very important to moisturize every day with a hypoallergenic moisturizer free of perfume. I have found sweet almond oil and apricot kernel oil to be excellent moisturizers. Make sure to apply immediately after every bath or shower. When drying, make sure to pat your skin dry and do not rub.
Relax As I have already mentioned, stress has been shown to have an active role in many an eczema flare-up. It is important to involve yourself in regular stress reducing activities. This can include daily meditation, yoga, walking or a few minutes of deep breathing exercises. Pick an activity you will enjoy and that you can do consistently.
Remember that eczema is a chronic condition that is most likely the result of your inherited genetics. Learning your flare up triggers and making the appropriate lifestyle changes is of prime importance in controlling eczema. Keeping a regular journal will go a long way in helping to identify your trigger foods and activities. I would encourage you to learn as much as possible about your condition. This will give you a sense of control and empowerment while helping you in your self-management of this chronic condition. Successful management of eczema can be achieved provided you commit yourself to the process. I wish you well!